We enter to a sleeping Mrs McMoon all cosy and comfortable in her spotty housecoat, dozing snug in her red polka-dot armchair. We’ve time to observe her and her environment; a kitchen come livingroom, complete with cuckoo clock and cooker. As she startles and briskly jumps up to answer her ringing outsized phone, we’re immediately introduced to her homely larger than life character! All fast paced and cheery, there follows chaotic banana eating and name guessing of the audience and even a few moments of lap sitting! Before we know it, and whilst the audience are still finding their seats, we’re well and truly warmed up into the lively grandmotherly world of Mrs McMoon.
We’re here because we’re each personally invited to her tea party. Not only us, other guests are coming, and coming soon! She needs to make her highly reputed scrumulumptious biscuits and requests our help. With song lyrics such as ‘crack the eggs and wobble your legs’, and lively actions, we’re treated to biscuit making Mrs McMoon style – it reminded me a little of the Rocky Horror Show Time Warp.
Courtesy of some backstage sleight of hand the biscuits ping into existence quick sharp. Various guests drop in, and, each time, whilst Mrs McMoon is out of the room (of course, as solo performer Katie Grace Cooper plays all the parts), various disasters befall the biscuits. We meet local lad Gilbert and his sniffing-nosed, hungry puppet pet. We meet Jill, Mrs McMoons Ab Fab style sister, and her singing flowers Charlotte, Sabrina and Bruce. And finally Rosie, Mrs McMoon’s granddaughter who likes jelly. Those poor biscuits get scoffed, used as soil and unceremoniously spat out! Each time we enthusiastically watch our homely heroine, with a song and a dance, make another scrumulumptious batch.
Mrs McMoon is a cheekily lovely engaging character. The songs are gorgeously well sung, and the compact design of this show is excellent. Children were completely engrossed in the fast paced plot, yet the story is performed at a rhythm for young ones to register the action and, with gleeful responses, to enthusiastically join in and feel part of the occasion. Interactions between Mrs McMoon and the audience of children were strong, bright, spontaneous, and never patronising, with a genuine depth of warmth and cheeky humour. I loved it, as did other adults in the audience. Fun, colourful and warm, bright and well paced. And I was given my own scrumulumptious biscuit and tea in a proper china cup at the end!
An hour or so later and we return to the basement space to meet Signor Baffo – a gentle clowning show for young audiences forming a comfortable double bill with Mrs McMoon. Cleverly transforming the cramped, homely kitchen counter cum living room of the former show into a cartoonishly equipped and brightly coloured chef’s kitchen (replete with a drawer promisingly labelled ‘Sausages’) we are transported into the old fashioned world of a kitchen boy buffoon who gets his day in charge. This is in many ways more conventional kids’ theatre: it’s a cosy solo show that develops through a series of set pieces with much clowning and audience interaction. Our hero arrives on a tottering partially-pretend bike, his overused hard hat in lieu of a red nose. The logic is firmly childlike – this is the sort of vision of a kitchen children might imagine from Disney films and the downfall of our hapless fool is similarly, joyfully, recognisable from the top. The show pulls out all of performer Oliver Harrisons’s tricks: there are little bits of puppetry, acrobatics, and juggling; Paul Harrison’s brightly coloured formica-styled set holds some intriguing tricks and surprises.
Harrison establishes an easy rapport with his young audience and the increasingly substantial bits of audience participation, which build to a very funny sequence featuring ‘pancakes’, mess and false moustaches, are really well managed. This is a gently traditional show that’s done nicely and with real warmth – there are no surprises here but the intimate audience are gleefully entertained.
Review by Mim King & Beccy Smith